Many clients with previous therapy, however, are seeking help again because they remain unhappy with the results of their previous efforts. Clients who feel this way are heard to say things like the following: "I really do have an excellent understanding of how my various difficulties developed, but nothing much is really any different then when I started my first therapy 15-20 years ago," "I'm 55 now and have become an expert about what's wrong with me, but I'm still the same screwed up guy I was when I was 20!" or, "I know a lot about myself; I just don’t know what to do with it."
The term I have used for this problem is the title of this paper: "insight rich and change poor." In fact, when in the initial sessions I have told a new client that this is what I think they are telling me, the look of recognition – and appreciation – for understanding this – is striking!
Psychotherapy or counseling, at best, is a dynamic process that is designed to bring about meaningful change. While the knowledge and insight gained from that process is valuable and, a blueprint for change, for most people it is usually not enough to justify the many months and the many dollars often devoted to the therapeutic adventure.Good counseling or therapy has both therapist and client keeping a careful eye on the extent to which identifiable and measurable change is taking place. Both need to insure that the therapy avoids becoming a 'research only' enterprise with loads of data, but with little or no evidence of recognizable change.
Change occurs in different ways depending both upon the nature of the change being sought, as well as individual styles and efforts made to achieve it. Sometimes change is the result of deliberate and focused effort to bring it about, like breaking a bad habit, trying to rid one's self of a phobia, or overcoming the effects of a trauma. At other times, change may occur unexpectedly – even though it has been worked on – like when one realizes the absence of an undesirable behavior or tendency; or, when it's noticed that a troubled way of thinking or behaving seems to have 'disappeared.'
However change occurs, what is important is that a person looking for substantive change via counseling or psychotherapy, emerges from the process feeling as though the hard work and sacrifices made to achieve the changes sought, was well worth it and an important gift given to the self for a better, more fulfilling life.